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Students Dialogue: Remembering School Life Before the Pandemic

16 Jul, 2020 KDIS News Center 727

Three students who came to Korea in the fall of 2019 are remembering the good times before the pandemic and exchanging their thoughts on life at KDI School. Erick, Mario, and Mohammadi came from different countries from around the world, but they equally share a passion for Korean food and enjoy their life in Sejong.


Before coming to KDI School, Mario de Deus was working at the National Commercial Bank of Timor-Leste as an internal auditor. Now he studies MPM and is excited about the courses he’s taking: Public Organization Management, Policy Process Analysis, Monitoring & Evaluation, and Performance Management Measurement.

“I do like the professors’ teaching methods, as well as the lectures’ contents. It is very relevant to the world’s current context, issues, and situations. I am also learning a lot from real cases shared by professors and students in the group discussions and presentations. I will use this experience as a reference and the lessons I learn help me improve my knowledge and be useful in my job and future professional career.”

In his spare time, Mario is up for reading, playing football, listening to music, and working out. He enjoys his life at KDI School because everything here makes one feel at home. He says: “I do enjoy every moment and smile a lot. Whatever the situation is, wherever I am and no matter who I am with, I always stay positive in my thinking, and I am confident in myself. For me, life is beautiful and every day is a new day.”

Muain Mohammadi is an official working for the Ministry of Economy from Afghanistan. He has more than three years of experience in different departments of the government including foreign affairs. Before coming to KDI School as an MPM student, Mohammadi was responsible for the development projects in the social services department.

His favorite course at KDI School is Policy Process Analysis because he can learn more about policy frameworks and how to make better policies for solving real problems.

“This course is highly relevant to my job. I will be able to apply the techniques learned here in my future career and life.” Mohammadi says that he will always remember the sports day and food festival in the first semester. “Those days were memorable since we had a lot of fun spending time with friends and exchanging information about our cultures.”

Even with the pandemic, he does not give up the joy of sports. “I am the representative of a football club at KDI School, and in my free time, I mostly enjoy playing football with my friends. Sometimes I go biking around Sejong City. The infrastructure for biking here is very nice. There are several public bike rental stations around KDI School, and there are also separate bike paths all over the city. There is especially a nice trail by the riverside. They say it is about 150 km and goes through all of Sejong.”

Mohammadi is very fond of Korean kimchi. “The school cafeteria has various menus every day, and I enjoy a lot of different food there. My favorite one is the chicken burger, and undoubtedly everything goes better with a nice kimchi!”

Mohammadi mentions that he enjoys the diversity at KDI School, where he can meet and get to know various cultures. “Our school is a very diverse place in South Korea, where different students of many cultures and languages meet together and provide a balance. My life is also safe here, and COVID-19 will not disrupt our lives and studies.”

Erick Morales came to Korea from Los Angeles, CA in the United States. He worked at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) as a contract specialist. Erick entered KDI School in the fall of 2019 as an MPP student, majoring in Regional Development and Environmental Policy.
Erick still remembers the “Smart Cities” course taught by Professor Yumin Joo in his first semester.

“In that course, we learned about different ways to conceptualize and evaluate the smart city, which might generally be defined as the application of technology in a city to improve quality of life or government efficiency. Professor Joo is very knowledgeable on this subject and I think she is one of the best professors at KDIS!”

Erick also recalls that the fall of 2019 was well before the COVID-19 pandemic, so students were able to take a field trip to Incheon and learn about Songdo, which was an attempt to bring international businesses and organizations to Korea by providing several smart city amenities. “I made a lot of friends in that class as well, so the “Smart Cities” class accounts for many of my fondest memories at KDI School.”

Erick confesses that he spends a lot of free time watching YouTube. However, he also realizes that his time in Korea and Sejong City is limited.

“Every few days, I like to walk around Sejong for an hour or two. On the weekends, I also like to go with friends to visit new cafes and restaurants in Sejong. Sejong is still a relatively new town and sometimes feels a little bit empty, but there are always many new places to visit.

Above all Erick mentions the diversity of his classmates at KDI school. “Not only do students come from all corners of the world, but they also have such a rich variety of experiences. Students at KDIS have worked for presidents, foreign ministries, central banks, and throughout the public and private sectors. I could talk to my classmates for hours about their lives back home, and I have learned so much outside the classroom – if not more – than I have inside. I will miss living with everyone in the dormitory and seeing my friends in class.”

During orientation in the Fall of 2019, KDIS nurse, Taesub Kim, noted that Sejong is a great place to study. “I think keeping that in mind helped me adjust to Sejong and enjoy living here. At first, I was a bit disappointed that Sejong did not have the liveliness of Seoul, but the city definitely has other benefits. There is a lot of open green space and KDI School provides almost everything a student needs so there is little reason to go off-campus. Also, back when we could travel, it was very easy to visit other cities in Korea like Seoul. But overall, KDI School and Sejong provide a great environment for learning about public policy, and I am really grateful for that. I can’t imagine a better place for graduate school!”